Dimitri had experienced many a tragedy in his life, many a difficult day and hour, yet this was proving to be the most difficult of them all.
Byleth's eyes were closing for the final time.
And Dimitri's heart was being torn from his chest in the process.
He held her small, wrinkled hand in his own. Merely the sight of her palm turning paper-light and translucent with age surprised him, it felt as if it had just been yesterday that the two of them were young, vibrant and youthful together.
She still remained beautiful in his eyes. Her head lay on the pillow, lightened mint green hair pulled into a loose bun on the top of her head. She had taken her diadem off and placed it on the table beside her, where it would wait patiently for the next Queen to claim.
Dimitri knew that his old friends, whomever was left of them, were waiting in the den of the castle for him to make an appearance. Yet, in this moment, he chose to be alone with his wife. The healers and caretakers had left the King and Queen hours ago to allow them to live their final moments together in quiet peace. He studied her intently, watching her chest rise and fall. The wrinkles that lined her face told the story of her long life.
Flayn and Seteth looked as young as ever. Dimitri knew that if Byleth had wanted to, she would've stayed young as well. Yet, she had chosen to age alongside him, a goddess in the flesh that preferred a human life over one of immortality. His heart swelled at the very thought.
Byleth had been quiet and unresponsive for days. She had stopped eating, drinking - simply laying there as her human body betrayed her. He stroked her hand, whispering "Beloved, you may rest now. I'll follow you soon after."
He could feel it in his bones. His body was beginning to fail as well, and he knew that his death bed lay in wait for him soon to follow.
The crickets of the summer evening chirped peacefully. The breeze blew through the open balcony doors. Peace settled upon the night as Byleth let out a small sigh, and her chest rose and fell more heavily than before - and in that very moment, with peace on her face, she ceased to ever move again.
The only time Dimitri let himself cry was at her bedside, with no other soul in the room. The tears flowed freely with no sign of stopping. He had no ability to hold the dam back any longer, and it finally burst through. His chest was tight, his breathing had shortened, and his stomach churned with a horrific nausea. The King had felt great loss before, felt it's bite at his heart, yet this was an entirely different pain than any he had ever experienced. This pain encompassed every inch of him. His world had stopped spinning.
He nearly didn't react, thinking the voice was another auditory hallucination come back torment him at the worst time of his life. It was the voice of a woman, yet sounded nothing like Edelgard, which was the only woman's voice that would bother him. In fact, he did not recognize the voice at all.
This time, he looked up. The girl was blurry through the veil of tears, but she was very clearly standing before him on the other side of Byleth's bed. Fearing that he might be seeing things again, he scowled, "Leave me alone, demon. Now is not the time."
"That's rude! I'm in mourning too."
Those kind of words would not ever be spoken by the malicious spirits that frequented his brain. His hallucinations were cruel, looking to hurt him, not mourn alongside him. Wiping away his hot tears, he attempted to get a better look at her, and instantly recognized the small figure before him.
He had only seen her in crude drawings. Long, unruly hair, green as a leaf in the forest. Childish features, with an intricate outfit. She floated off the ground, and stared at him with an expression of pity. He never thought he'd see her in person, simply knowing her visage from the pictures Byleth scribbled.
There was still a chance that he was imagining things, manifesting the goddess that resided in his wife's head in her younger years. He stared at her, and watched her levitate in place and stare back at him with big, childish eyes.
"Why am I seeing you?"
She looked down at Byleth with an expression of sadness flickering across her face. Reaching out a hand, she intended to brush her fingers across the late Queen's cheek, yet only phased through her skin as if she was a ghost. "Her death has freed me, left me without a vessel."
He was able to breath better, the distraction of Sothis before him allowing him to calm his tears, yet his heart still ached in misery. "Where will you go now?"
She pulled her hand back to her chest and thought for a moment, "I suppose I shall roam the world once more. Maybe create a new species of frog, or something. I would be on my way already, but I wanted to speak to you first." She leveled him with an authoritative stare, "You have lived your life well, and done me a great deal of service in your dealings with my vassal, I would like to offer you one request... Anything you wish, I shall grant."
What a load to dump on him in the worst moment of his life. He blinked at her, Byleth's cold hand in his own as he stared at the floating Goddess. He had not been prepared to answer this. It was like the times when someone would ask what his favorite book was, and he would suddenly forget every book he had ever read. He knew there were things he wished for, things he wanted, but in this moment he could only look down at the body of his wife resting before him.
He knew what he desired.
"I want to relive it all again. I'll suffer through my madness, the war, the hardships... simply to live my life with her once more."
Sothis looked relieved, "Oh, splendid! I thought you were going to ask me to revive her. I don't think I could do that... but control time? That, I can do." She gracefully extended her arms and fingers to her sides, and smiled wickedly, "Are you prepared? Or would you like to say goodbye to your family first?"
He felt like he already had. He knew his own death was coming shortly, his health declining even more rapidly with stress. His children, his grandchildren, they had all said their goodbyes to him throughout the day. He had seen his friends of old for the last time, and was ready to depart from this world. He had full confidence in this, and sent the goddess a determined nod, "I'm prepared."
The moment was heavy, but her smile confident. He held his wife's hand in his own and watched as Sothis closed her eyes and began her spell, "Very well then... I will see you soon, King Dimitri."
His consciousness slowly faded into black, stolen away into sweet nothingness.
The King of Faerghus was found dead that night, slumped in the chair beside his wife, clutching her hand.
His family mourned. The country mourned. The savior King, beloved of the people, the restorer of order, had finally passed away.
Yet, as it always did, time moved on. The world kept moving, and the Blaiddyd bloodline continued.
In that reality, at least.
Dimitri was 13 when he began to remember his life before.
It started with the dreams. Wars, living like a madman, marrying a green haired woman who smiled like the sun itself. He would lay in bed for as long as he possibly could, trying to make the dreams come back after he'd woken up. Lambert would eventually shake the boy out of his cot, and Dimitri would give up on unraveling the puzzle of his recurring dreams.
The most unnerving part for the boy was when he looked at his father. He would hear the screams of a tragedy, and see him lying on the ground, wailing in pain as an ax came down upon his neck. Dimitri would close his eyes and count to 10, and Lambert would be back to the father he knew. Different locations around Fodlan would bring about the same effect - coming into Remire Village and feeling an overwhelming anger. Or camping in Zanado and feeling paranoia.
Being only 13 years old and having never had any of the said experiences in any of those places, it was all quite concerning to him. He could almost swear that he was going mad, endowed with the memories of someone that was not him.
Lambert knew nothing of his son's dreams and visions. He stayed preoccupied with simply providing a livelihood for him and his son as they traveled. Dimitri was not keen to put more stress on his father's already sagging shoulders.
At times, instead of seeing bloody memories, he would be filled with a strange longing as he looked at his father. His heart would swell with emotion, and he would begin to miss him terribly, as if he had been gone for so long and it was the first time he was seeing him again. This, too, startled him, as he had spent nearly every moment with his father since he was a baby.
The two traveled all across Fodlan. Nightly, Lambert would train Dimitri with the lance, and hone his strength in a way that he could control. He made his son pick delicate leaves off the ground for hours, and for each leaf he broke was another reprimand. Soon, the training grew harder, and Dimitri was made to hold birds, rabbits, lizards, anything that he could easily twist and break. Lambert would speak softly to him, remind him of the innocence and life that was held in his hands. Dimitri never once hurt any of them, yet lances and pencils were an entirely different matter.
As the young Blaiddyd grew taller, older, wiser, the memories grew stronger.
At age 15, it began to make sense with the arrival of Sothis.
She would only speak to him several times a year, as if she was merely checking up on him and leaving upon seeing that he still lived. He would be laying in his sleeping bag at night, near asleep, and her childlike voice would suddenly invade his thoughts with an inquiry of how he was doing. His startled scream had woken up Lambert more than a few times.
On the eve of his 16th birthday, as Dimitri sat outside of his tent and enjoyed the cool winter air, she came to him once more.
"Do you know what's happening?"
He tried to not flinch at the sudden sound of her voice. He had never known how to respond before, besides a quick answer in his head that she always seemed satisfied with. He truly felt that he was going insane, having memories of someone that he'd never been, hearing the voice of someone he'd never met. She wasn't mean to him, simply curious.
In his mind, he answered back hesitantly, "I don't know..." He didn't know if she was referring to what he was currently doing in that moment, which would've just been sitting, or if she was referring to something much larger that he was unaware of.
"My name is Sothis," she explained, seeming annoyed at the fact that she had to explain herself in the first place, "And I must admit something to you..."
She sounded so guilty. He stayed silent, yet confused, waiting for her to confess.
"I sort of messed up when I granted your wish."
His confusion only grew. "I've never made a wish from you."
"Oh, but you have. You don't remember now, but it'll all come back. You see, there are many different realities, many different perceptions. It's all quite confusing, I don't really pay attention to any of it. But... you'll get it soon."
He felt the buzz of her presence begin to fade away from the back of his mind. Desperately, he reached out to grab her, "Wait! I've no idea what you're talking about!"
She was gone before she would answer him. Dejected, he returned his focus back to the scenery, back to the breeze in the air, back to the night sky above. He slumped and rested his cheek in his palm as he thought of her words. Different perceptions. Different realities. It'll all come back.
It implied that he was forgetting something. That was the trouble with forgetting, losing something in the storage of his mind. Frustration began to rise in his stomach as he thought, and thought, and thought.
Behind him, Lambert unzipped his tent and poked his blond head out to look at his son, "What're you doing up this late?" His voice was gravelly with sleep.
Dimitri glanced at him over his shoulder. He felt another wave of nostalgia and love wash over him as he looked at his father's alive, breathing face. His eyes that were not rolled into the back of his head, and his neck not bloodied by an enemy's blade.
If only he could remember why he was even thinking of that in the first place!
"Don't worry about me, father. You should go back to sleep."
Lambert was not one to argue about his need for sleep. The man nodded and drew back into his tent, zipping it up and rustling around on the inside. Dimitri drew his attention away again and looked at the sky in pleading frustration. His instincts, something inside of him, nagged at him to remember. Remember. Just search, and remember.
Frustration kept him up all night. He spent the next morning laying in bed, half asleep and groaning for more rest. Lambert took pity on him and let him sleep an extra hour while he gathered breakfast together.
"Your mom used to make the best bacon." Lambert called out, sitting outside of his tent and turning the strips of meat over in the skillet, "I miss her food."
Dimitri perked up, lifting his head from his pillow and staring at the tent wall in thought. "Mother... you mean Patricia?"
Lambert paused, confused, "Who is Patricia?"
Who is Patricia?
"I... I'm not sure. I apologize, father. I'm just very tired right now." He dropped his head back onto his pillow and closed his eyes in thought. Patricia. Patricia. The name rang familiar on his tongue. Patricia holding his father's hand. Patricia and Cornelia - whoever that was - drinking tea and watching the sunset. Patricia smiling dearly at him as if to say goodbye as the carriage walls around him shook and yells intruded the peacefulness around them. Fire and blood. Patricia. Patricia.
Dimitri pushed himself up and peaked his head out of the tent, earning the attention of his father, "What happened to my mother?"
Refusing to look at him, he poked at the bacon nonchalantly, "She died of illness. We were living in Fhirdiad at that time, you were only two. It was only after her death that the Eisner family hired that Cornelia woman to heal the Kingdom."
Cornelia. Eisner. The last name felt sweet on his tongue as he repeated it out loud, "Eisner?" His heart tugged in his chest.
"Jeralt and Sitri Eisner, the royal family of Faerghus?" He shook his head, "I suppose I've never taken you to Fhirdiad, have I?"
The memories were so close, yet so far. The very action of racking his brain for something to jog into place made Dimitri even more tired. He sighed and turned back around in his tent, giving up. He laid down once more to close his eyes, and to possibly erase the frustrating, out of reach memories from his mind.
It was only at the age of 18 that his universe clicked into place. The puzzle had finally began to form into it's final picture.
He stumbled out of his tent on a warm spring morning to spy his father talking to three nearly identically dressed people, looking frantic and begging for help.
And upon seeing that two of them were girls, he patted his hair down onto his head, yet it only stuck up more.
"What's going on?" He asked as he approached the group. One of the girls had long, silvery hair, and eyes that studied him as if he was an experiment. The boy was tan, with a smile that spoke of untold secrets. The girl in the middle looked the most odd of the group. Her hair looked as if it had been cut by a pocket-knife, and her expression was an unnerving blank slate, a mask that would not let anyone in. Three pairs of eyes turned to him, and he felt on the spot as he stared right back.
Lambert put a fatherly hand on his head, subtly pushing down the hair that was sticking up so he would look more sightly. "This is my son, Dimitri." He looked at him, "They're from the Officers Academy a few miles from here."
He could recall the looming, dark buildings on the side of the mountain nearby. The sight of the monastery in the distance reminded him of better times, of studying and laughter, of betrayal and revenge. It was a combination that made his stomach hurt. "A pleasure to meet you. You're quite far from your academy."
"We were doing drills in the forest, but we were attacked by bandits. Our teacher ran away, so... Claude ran away too." The silver haired one explained, sending a challenging look toward the boy.
Her words didn't quite register with Dimitri, as he could hardly take his eyes off of the three students and the memories that filled his mind. He couldn't bear to meet the silver haired girl's eyes, lest a wave of regret make his stomach churn with nausea.
"It was a strategic retreat." The boy, Claude, put his hands up in defense. The sight of him made the feeling of nausea turn to fondness, a type of friendship grown over tribulation.
"We'll help you out." Lambert assured them confidently, his charming smile flitting across his face as he grabbed his lance, "My Dimitri here's the best fighter around."
His eyes shot to his father and he furrowed his brows, now embarrassed to have the eyes all on him again. If he didn't know any better, he would say his father was bragging about him in an attempt to endear him to one of the girls. Lately, he'd been trying to give him the sex talk, and Dimitri had managed to avoid it for as long as he could - especially seeing as he had already hit puberty about six years prior. "I am far from the best, father. I have much to learn." He brushed him off, sending him a look of warning as he went back to his tent to retrieve his steel lance.
The odd looking girl wearing the blue cape over her shoulders spoke up, her voice soft and light, "I appreciate your humility."
Four words. Four, simple, unimportant words.
His reaction to her was not immediate. He glanced at her to acknowledge the compliment, and it was as he did so, as he looked at her face straight on, lance in hand and still wearing his pajamas, that the waterfall of memories let loose, and poured it's painful, enlightening rain down upon him.
She was taken aback, it showed only slightly on her face as she stared at him, "How do you know my name?"
Nobody had said her name earlier. Nobody had introduced her. He knew her name because he had been married to her. He knew her name because she was his best friend.
He knew her name because she was the love of his life.
Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd, 18 year old mercenary living out in the woods with his father and hunting for food and money, was himself once more. He looked at the hand holding his lance, a young hand, one without wrinkles and scars from war.
He looked back at Byleth, who stared at him as if she had never met him in her life. She wore the same almond eyes and round face. Pale skin and choppy hair. Her expression changed to concern as she, along with her fellow students, watched him even more closely, "Are you okay?"
He didn't think so.
She wore a Blue Lions uniform. She wore his old cape. She was alongside a future Empress and future King. Eisner was the last name of the Faerghus nobility.
He looked down at himself. Common clothes. Hands calloused from working all of his life.
Sothis had messed up. She had tried to warn him.
"Damn that lazy Goddess."
The world spun, and Dimitri drowned under the memories that flooded back to him.
He collapsed onto the ground, passed out.